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WeWork is to go public via a SPAC merger with BowX Acquisition Corp in a deal valuing the company at around $9bn. Shares in BowX (NASDAQ:BOWX) rose 5% in pre-market trade to above the nominal $10 it listed at. 

The move will allow WeWork to trade a publicly-listed stock without the kind of scrutiny that kyboshed its abortive 2019 listing. The $9bn is substantially below the roughly $47bn discussed when it filed for its 2019 IPO.

The deal is funded by $483m in cash raised by BowX plus $800m in private investment from investors including Fidelity, BlackRock and Starwood Capital.

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Deal delivers $1.3bn in growth capital

The deal provides WeWork with about $1.3bn in capital “which will enable the company to fund its growth plans into the future”, it said. Upon completion, the company will have approximately $1.9 billion of cash on the balance sheet and total liquidity of $2.4 billion, including a $550 million senior secured notes facility to be provided by SoftBank Group.

WeWork announced losses of $3.2bn last year as it pitched for a SPAC listing and $1bn investment. This was a narrowing from $3.5bn burnt in 2019 because it slashed capex to the bone, cutting investment from $2.2bn to $49m. Occupancy fell to 47% from 72%, but the company expects to rebound to 90% next year, which seems optimistic. As does an expected doubling of revenues to $7bn by 2024.

Hard to see how WeWork will get more customers

We looked at the leasing structure back in 2019 in some depth and it is hard to see how WeWork will gain more customers as the effects of the pandemic seem set to linger. In particular, having had experience of the WeWork goldfish bowl cubicles, they are exactly the opposite of what workers will desire as they return to offices – more open plan please. 

Investors who might have got swept up in a WeWork IPO in 2019 will be grateful the listing got pulled. Now they get another chance to get burnt by WeWork’s ambitions.  SPACs mean it’s even easier to go public and I’m sure they will find some willing backers for this serviced office provider tech platform. 

The pandemic has radically transformed the services office landscape from 2019 but WeWork has also been forced to change for other reasons too and is more streamlined than the bloated entity it once was, but it remains overly optimistic both about its prospects and those of the market in which it operates. It’s just all too easy with a SPAC and only underlines the concerns about this craze and the misallocation of capital it is fostering.

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Please note this article does not constitute investment advice. Investors are encouraged to do their own research beforehand or consult a professional advisor.

Stuart Fieldhouse

Stuart Fieldhouse

Stuart Fieldhouse has spent 25 years in journalism and marketing, including as a wealth management editor for the Financial Times group, covering capital markets and international private banking, and as an investment banking correspondent for Euromoney in Hong Kong. He was the founder editor of The Hedge Fund Journal.

Stuart has worked at CMC Markets, supporting the re-launch of its global financial spread betting and CFD trading platforms. He is also the author of two books on trading, published by Financial Times Pearson. Based in The Armchair Trader’s London office, Stuart continues to advise fund managers, private banks, family offices and other financial institutions.

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